Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common complex congenital malformations resulting from failure of the neural tube closure during embryogenesis. It is established that folic acid supplementation decreases the prevalence of NTDs, which has led to national public health policies regarding folic acid. To date, animal studies have not provided sufficient information to establish the metabolic and/or genomic mechanism(s) underlying human folic acid responsiveness in NTDs. However, several lines of evidence suggest that not only folates but also choline, B12 and methylation metabolisms are involved in NTDs. Decreased B12 vitamin and increased total choline or homocysteine in maternal blood have been shown to be associated with increased NTDs risk. Several polymorphisms of genes involved in these pathways have also been implicated in risk of development of NTDs. This raises the question whether supplementation with B12 vitamin, betaine or other methylation donors in addition to folic acid periconceptional supplementation will further reduce NTD risk. The objective of this article is to review the role of methylation metabolism in the onset of neural tube defects.
neural tube defects; folate; methylation; choline; methionine; homocysteine; MTHFR; B12 vitamin
Folate hydrolase 1 (FOLH1) gene encodes intestinal folate hydrolase, which regulates intestinal absorption of dietary folate. Previous studies on the association between polymorphisms rs202676 and rs61886492 and the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) were inconclusive. A case–control study of women with NTD-affected pregnancies (n = 160) and controls (n = 320) was conducted in the Chinese population of Lvliang, a high-risk area for NTDs. We genotyped the polymorphic sites rs202676 and rs61886492 and assessed maternal plasma folate and total homocysteine (tHcy). Our results showed that in case group, plasma folate concentrations were 18 % lower compared with those of control group (8.32 vs. 6.79 nmol/L, p = 0.033) and tHcy concentrations were 17 % higher (10.47 vs. 12.65 μmol/L, p = 0.047). Almost all samples had the rs61886492 GG genotype (99.78 %). The result showed that the frequency of GG genotype in rs202676 was significantly higher in group with multiple NTDs than in controls (p = 0.030, OR = 2.157, 95 % CI, 1.06–4.38). The multiple-NTD group showed higher maternal plasma concentrations of tHcy (10.47 vs. 13.96 μmol/L, p = 0.024). The GG genotype of rs202676 had a lower maternal folate and higher tHcy concentrations than other genotypes with no significant differences. The result of structural prediction indicated that this variation might change the spatial structure of the protein. These results suggested that the maternal polymorphism rs202676 was a potential risk factor for multiple NTDs in this Chinese population. The allele G might affect maternal plasma folate and tHcy concentration.
Association study; Chinese population; FOLH1; Neural tube defects; Single-nucleotide polymorphism
To assess the efficacy of folic acid (FA) supplementation and fortification in preventing neural tube defects (NTDs) in a high prevalence region of the US.
Active and passive surveillance methods were used to identify all fetuses/infants affected by an NTD in South Carolina. Prevalence rates were compared with FA intake to determine the effects of increased intake on NTD occurrence and recurrence.
From 1992–2009, 916 NTD cases occurred in South Carolina with isolated defects comprising 79% of cases. The NTD rate decreased 58% during this period. There was one NTD-affected pregnancy among 418 subsequent pregnancies (0.2%) in mothers with previous NTD-affected pregnancies who consumed periconceptional FA supplements and four NTDs among 66 pregnancies (6.1%) in which the mother did not take FA supplements. Folic acid supplementation increased from 8% to 35% from 1992–2007 and knowledge of the protective benefits of FA increased from 8% to 65% in women of childbearing age.
Increased periconceptional intake of FA appeared to reduce NTDs in a high prevalence region. The rate of spina bifida and anencephaly in South Carolina is now essentially the same (0.69 cases per 1000 live births and fetal deaths) as the 1998–2005 US rate (0.69).
birth defects; folic acid; South Carolina; spina bifida; anencephaly; encephalocele
In 1998, mandatory folic acid fortification of white flour and select cereal grain products was implemented in Canada with the intention to increase dietary folate intakes of reproducing women. Folic acid fortification has produced a dramatic increase in blood folate concentrations among reproductive age women, and a reduction in neural tube defect (NTD)-affected pregnancies. In response to improved blood folate concentrations, many health care professionals are asking whether a folic acid supplement is necessary for NTD prevention among women with high blood folate values, and how reliably high RBC folate concentrations predict folate intakes shown in randomized controlled trials to be protective against NTDs. The objective of this study was to determine how predictive blood folate concentrations and folate intakes are of each other in a sample of well-educated lactating Canadian women exposed to high levels of synthetic folate.
The relationship between blood folate concentrations and dietary folate intakes, determined by weighed food records, were assessed in a sample of predominantly university-educated lactating women (32 ± 4 yr) at 4-(n = 53) and 16-wk postpartum (n = 55).
Median blood folate concentrations of all participants were well above plasma and RBC folate cut-off levels indicative of deficiency (6.7 and 317 nmol/L, respectively) and all, except for 2 subjects, were above the cut-off for NTD-risk reduction (>906 nmol/L). Only modest associations existed between total folate intakes and plasma (r = 0.46, P < 0.001) and RBC (r = 0.36, P < 0.01) folate concentrations at 16-wk postpartum. Plasma and RBC folate values at 16-wk postpartum correctly identified the quartile of folate intake of only 26 of 55 (47%) and 18 of 55 (33%) of subjects, respectively. The mean RBC folate concentration of women consuming 151–410 μg/d of synthetic folate (2nd quartile of intake) did not differ from that of women consuming >410 μg/d (3rd and 4th quartile).
Folate intakes, estimated by food composition tables, and blood folate concentrations are not predictive of each other in Canadian lactating women exposed to high levels of folate. Synthetic intakes > 151–410 μg/d in these women produced little additional benefit in terms of maximizing RBC content. More studies are needed to examine the relationship between blood folate concentration and NTD risk. Until data from such studies are available, women planning a pregnancy should continue to consume a daily folic acid supplement of 400 μg.
Risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) is determined by genetic and environmental factors, among which folate status appears to play a key role. However, the precise nature of the link between low folate status and NTDs is poorly understood, and it remains unclear how folic acid prevents NTDs. We investigated the effect of folate level on risk of NTDs in splotch (Sp2H) mice, which carry a mutation in Pax3. Dietary folate restriction results in reduced maternal blood folate, elevated plasma homocysteine and reduced embryonic folate content. Folate deficiency does not cause NTDs in wild-type mice, but causes a significant increase in cranial NTDs among Sp2H embryos, demonstrating a gene–environment interaction. Control treatments, in which intermediate levels of folate are supplied, suggest that NTD risk is related to embryonic folate concentration, not maternal blood folate concentration. Notably, the effect of folate deficiency appears more deleterious in female embryos than males, since defects are not prevented by exogenous folic acid. Folate-deficient embryos exhibit developmental delay and growth retardation. However, folate content normalized to protein content is appropriate for developmental stage, suggesting that folate availability places a tight limit on growth and development. Folate-deficient embryos also exhibit a reduced ratio of s-adenosylmethionine (SAM) to s-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH). This could indicate inhibition of the methylation cycle, but we did not detect any diminution in global DNA methylation, in contrast to embryos in which the methylation cycle was specifically inhibited. Hence, folate deficiency increases the risk of NTDs in genetically predisposed splotch embryos, probably via embryonic growth retardation.
Neural tube defects are common congenital malformations of the central nervous system. Despite years of intensive epidemiological, clinical, and experimental research, the exact etiology of NTD remains rather complex and poorly understood. The present study attempted to look into the association of occurrence of NTD with reference to folic acid levels, along with karyotyping status.
Materials and Methods:
Detailed history was taken with emphasis on age of the baby and mother, parity, antenatal folic acid intake. Five milliliters of blood was drawn from all the babies and their mothers and divided equally in preheparinized vials (for karyotyping) and plain vials (for folic acid estimation). The total duration was 2 years.
The total number (n) in the study group was 75. The folic acid level was less in affected babies and their mother when compared to matched controls. Chromosomal defect was observed in nine of the 75 patients. Karyotyping defects were higher in children born to mothers of the age group 31-40 years and when their birth order was second.
Folic acid supplementation needs to be continued to prevent the occurrence of NTD, and the perinatal identification of NTD should alert one to the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities and prompt a thorough cytogenetic investigation and genetic counseling.
Chromosomal defect; folic acid; neural tube defects; karyotyping
Alterations in maternal folate and homocysteine metabolism are associated with neural tube defects (NTDs). The role that specific micronutrients and metabolites play in the causal pathway leading to NTDs is not fully understood.
We conducted a case-control study to investigate the association between NTDs and maternal alterations in plasma micronutrients and metabolites in two metabolic pathways, the methionine remethylation and glutathione transsulfuration. Biomarkers were measured in a population-based sample of women who had NTD-affected pregnancies (n = 43) and a control group of women who had a pregnancy unaffected by a birth defect (n = 160). Plasma concentrations of folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, methionine, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), s- adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), adenosine, homocysteine, cysteine, and reduced and oxidized glutathione were compared between cases and controls after adjusting for lifestyle and sociodemographic factors.
Women with NTD-affected pregnancies had significantly higher plasma concentrations of SAH (29.12 vs. 23.13 nmol/L, P = 0.0011), adenosine (0.323 vs. 0.255 μmol/L, P = 0.0269), homocysteine (9.40 vs. 7.56 μmol/L, P < 0.001), and oxidized glutathione (0.379 vs. 0.262μmol/L, P = 0.0001), but lower plasma SAM concentration (78.99 vs. 83.16 nmol/L, P = 0.0172) than controls. This metabolic profile is consistent with reduced methylation capacity and increased oxidative stress in women with affected pregnancies.
Increased maternal oxidative stress and decreased methylation capacity may contribute to the occurrence of NTDs. Further analysis of relevant genetic and environmental factors is required to define the basis for these observed alterations.
Neural tube defects; maternal biomarkers; folate; methionine; homocysteine; glutathione
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common birth defects (~1 in 1000 pregnancies in the US and Europe) that have complex origins, including environmental and genetic factors. A low level of maternal folate is one well-established risk factor, with maternal periconceptional folic acid supplementation reducing the occurrence of NTD pregnancies by 50-70%. Gene variants in the folate metabolic pathway (e.g., MTHFR rs1801133 (677 C > T) and MTHFD1 rs2236225 (R653Q)) have been found to increase NTD risk. We hypothesized that variants in additional folate/B12 pathway genes contribute to NTD risk.
A tagSNP approach was used to screen common variation in 82 candidate genes selected from the folate/B12 pathway and NTD mouse models. We initially genotyped polymorphisms in 320 Irish triads (NTD cases and their parents), including 301 cases and 341 Irish controls to perform case–control and family based association tests. Significantly associated polymorphisms were genotyped in a secondary set of 250 families that included 229 cases and 658 controls. The combined results for 1441 SNPs were used in a joint analysis to test for case and maternal effects.
Nearly 70 SNPs in 30 genes were found to be associated with NTDs at the p < 0.01 level. The ten strongest association signals (p-value range: 0.0003–0.0023) were found in nine genes (MFTC, CDKN2A, ADA, PEMT, CUBN, GART, DNMT3A, MTHFD1 and T (Brachyury)) and included the known NTD risk factor MTHFD1 R653Q (rs2236225). The single strongest signal was observed in a new candidate, MFTC rs17803441 (OR = 1.61 [1.23-2.08], p = 0.0003 for the minor allele). Though nominally significant, these associations did not remain significant after correction for multiple hypothesis testing.
To our knowledge, with respect to sample size and scope of evaluation of candidate polymorphisms, this is the largest NTD genetic association study reported to date. The scale of the study and the stringency of correction are likely to have contributed to real associations failing to survive correction. We have produced a ranked list of variants with the strongest association signals. Variants in the highest rank of associations are likely to include true associations and should be high priority candidates for further study of NTD risk.
Neural tube defects; Spina bifida; Folic acid; One-carbon metabolism; Candidate gene
A randomised trial was initiated in Ireland in 1981 to determine if periconceptional supplementation with either folic acid alone or a multivitamin preparation alone could reduce the recurrence risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) in women with a previously affected pregnancy from 5.0% to 1.0% or less. The trial was concluded before the initial target number of study subjects was reached and without a clear treatment effect being observed. A total of 354 women were randomised to receive one of three treatments: folic acid, multivitamins without folic acid, and folic acid plus multivitamins. At the end of the trial 257 women had had a first trial pregnancy outcome (261 infants/fetuses) where the presence or absence of NTDs was ascertainable. There was one NTD recurrence in the 89 infants/fetuses of women in the multivitamin group and no recurrence in the 172 infants/fetuses of women in the folic acid groups, a non-significant difference. Otherwise eligible women who were pregnant when first contacted constituted a non-randomised control group; there were three recurrences among the 103 infants in this group. The difference in the recurrence rate between the folic acid groups and the non-randomised controls was statistically significant but we have reservations about the validity of this comparison. Although our findings do not provide clear evidence of a protective effect of folic acid supplementation they are consistent with those of the Medical Research Council (MRC) trial which demonstrated the efficacy of folic acid in preventing recurrence of NTDs and they raise the possibility that folic acid may be protective at a much lower dosage than that used in the MRC trial.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are among the most common of all human congenital defects. Over the last two decades, accumulating evidence has made it clear that periconceptional intake of folic acid can significantly reduce the risk of NTD affected pregnancies. This beneficial effect may be related to the ability of folates to donate methyl groups for critical physiological reactions. Choline is an essential nutrient and it is also a methyl donor critical for the maintenance of cell membrane integrity and methyl metabolism. Perturbations in choline metabolism in vitro have been shown to induce NTDs in mouse embryos.
This study investigated whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in human choline kinase A (CHKA) gene and CTP:phosphocholine cytidylytransferase (PCYT1A) gene were risk factors for spina bifida. Fluorescence-based allelic discrimination analysis was performed for the two CHKA intronic SNPs hCV1562388 (rs7928739) and hCV1562393, and PCYT1A SNP rs939883 and rs3772109. The study population consisted of 103 infants with spina bifida and 338 non-malformed control infants who were born in selected California counties in the period 1989–1991.
The CHKA SNP hCV1562388 genotypes with at least one C allele were associated with a reduced risk of spina bifida (odds ratio = 0.60, 95%CI = 0.38–0.94). The PCYT1A SNP rs939883 genotype AA was associated with a twofold increased risk of spina bifida (odds ratio = 1.89, 95% CI = 0.97–3.67). These gene-only effects were not substantially modified by analytic consideration to maternal periconceptional choline intake.
Our analyses showed genotype effects of CHKA and PCYT1A genes on spina bifida risk, but did not show evidence of gene-nutrient interactions. The underlying mechanisms are yet to be resolved.
To present an unusual congenital malformation of the central nervous system.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are potentially serious congenital malformations. When undiagnosed in childhood, such lesions may later be mistaken for a variety of other soft tissue abnormalities. Athletic trainers should be aware of the clinical findings associated with NTDs and the potential for infection in the event of an injury, thus ensuring proper treatment for injured athletes and referral of any athletes with suspicious lesions.
Atretic meningocele, hemangioma, lipoma, sebaceous nevus, dermoid cyst, scar tissue, aplasia cutis congenita, and hematoma.
The consulting pediatric neurosurgeon thought that repairing the atretic meningocele was only necessary if symptoms recurred and persisted. This young woman is at increased risk for having a child with an NTD and will benefit from high doses of folic acid early in a future pregnancy.
Typically, NTDs are diagnosed in infancy or early childhood. This case represents a young woman whose NTD was not properly diagnosed until adolescence. In addition, NTDs can be mistaken for a variety of other skin lesions. The location and appearance of an NTD are typically distinctive to the knowledgeable examiner.
Although NTDs are unusual, athletic trainers should be aware of such pathologic conditions to avoid mistaking these lesions for traumatic sequelae and to identify those athletes who may need further evaluation to rule out a potentially serious condition.
atretic meningocele; scalp lesion; neural tube defect; congenital abnormalities
OBJECTIVE: To examine time trends in neural tube defects (NTD) prevalence from 1987 to 1996 in relation to the primary prevention policies for folic acid supplementation strategies in different countries. DESIGN: Retrospective time trends analysis of NTD prevalence. SETTING: 11 birth defect registries of congenital malformations participating in the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Monitoring System, in the period from 1 July 1987 to 30 June 1996. SUBJECTS: 8207 live births, stillbirths and terminated pregnancies affected by anencephaly or spina bifida registered by the 11 participating centres 1987-1996. OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence rate ratios based on the annual rates, using the Poisson regression model. RESULTS: During the study period a significant fall in prevalence rates for all NTD is present in Atlanta (USA), England and Wales, Hungary and Japan, and a significant rise in Norway and South America. After adjusting for the secular trends observed in the earlier years of the study, no significant trend can be attributed to preventive strategies. Data on NTD prevalence are supplemented with information on folate awareness among some of the populations studied. CONCLUSION: There is no evidence that, up to the middle of 1996, any change in time trend was attributable to the introduction of national folate supplementation policies. The possible effectiveness of folate supplementation policies for the reduction of NTD clearly needs to be tried and studied for several more years. Considering that in the Western world about 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, a policy that rests on action taken before conception can only have limited success. Strategies based on food enrichment, such as was introduced in the USA from the beginning of 1998, may prove to be more successful.
Studies in the 1990s have found that periconceptional dietary folate, supplementation of folic acid or supplemental multivitamins containing folic acid, help prevent neural tube defect (NTDs) if taken at the right time. This literature review assesses the extant folic acid public health campaigns literature and identifies some common variables used in folic acid consumption campaign evaluations.
This review was part of a larger study that searched PUBMED, PsycINFO and Embase from 1976 to 2010 to identify articles related to the psychosocial and economic impact of NTDs (especially spina bifida) on patients and caregivers.
Awareness of folic acid levels prior to conception improved post-campaign from 6 to 41%. Knowledge about consumption and correct periconceptional use of folic acid also improved. However, in most studies more than 50% of women did not take folic acid as prescribed. Many factors were associated with or without taking folic acid post-campaign, including incomplete outreach, prior awareness and knowledge, closeness to pregnancy, demographics and other personal characteristics.
Sustained campaigning to maintain awareness about and promote periconceptional consumption of folic acid in order to reduce the incidence of NTDs is clearly needed. Additional initiatives could complement existing public health strategies.
awareness; campaigns; consumption; folic acid; knowledge
Maternal folic acid supplementation has been associated with a reduced risk for neural tube defects, and may be associated with a reduced risk for congenital heart defects, and other birth defects. Individuals with Down syndrome are at high risk for congenital heart defects and have been shown to have abnormal folate metabolism.
As part of the population-based case-control National Down Syndrome Project, 1011 mothers of infants with Down syndrome reported their use of folic acid-containing supplements. These data were used to determine whether lack of periconceptional maternal folic acid supplementation is associated with congenital heart defects in Down syndrome. We used logistic regression to test the relationship between maternal folic acid supplementation and the frequency of specific heart defects correcting for maternal race/ethnicity, proband sex, maternal use of alcohol and cigarettes, and maternal age at conception.
Lack of maternal folic acid supplementation was more frequent among infants with Down syndrome and atrioventricular septal defects (OR=1.69; 95% CI, 1.08–2.63; P=0.011) or atrial septal defects (OR=1.69; 95% CI, 1.11–2.58; P=0.007) than among infants with Down syndrome and no heart defect. Preliminary evidence suggests that the patterns of association differ by race/ethnicity and sex of the proband. There was no statistically significant association with ventricular septal defects (OR=1.26; 95% CI, 0.85–1.87; P=0.124).
Our results suggest that lack of maternal folic acid supplementation is associated with septal defects in infants with Down syndrome.
Atrial septal defect; Atrioventricular septal defect; Congenital heart defect; Down syndrome; Folic acid
OBJECTIVE--To study the effect of periconceptional multivitamin supplementation on neural tube defects and other congenital abnormality entities. DESIGN--Randomised controlled trial of supplementation with multivitamins and trace elements. SETTING--Hungarian family planning programme. SUBJECTS--4156 pregnancies with known outcome and 3713 infants evaluated in the eighth month of life. INTERVENTIONS--A single tablet of a multivitamin including 0.8 mg of folic acid or trace elements supplement daily for at least one month before conception and at least two months after conception. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Number of major and mild congenital abnormalities. RESULTS--The rate of all major congenital abnormalities was significantly lower in the group given vitamins than in the group given trace elements and this difference cannot be explained totally by the significant reduction of neural tube defects. The rate of major congenital abnormalities other than neural tube defects and genetic syndromes was 9.0/1000 in pregnancies with known outcome in the vitamin group and 16.6/1000 in the trace element group; relative risk 1.85 (95% confidence interval 1.02 to 3.38); difference, 7.6/1000. The rate of all major congenital abnormalities other than neural tube defects and genetic syndromes diagnosed up to the eighth month of life was 14.7/1000 informative pregnancies in the vitamin group and 28.3/1000 in the trace element group; relative risk 1.95 (1.23 to 3.09); difference, 13.6/1000. The rate of some congenital abnormalities was lower in the vitamin group than in the trace element group but the differences for each group of abnormalities were not significant. CONCLUSIONS--Periconceptional multivitamin supplementation can reduce not only the rate of neural tube defects but also the rate of other major non-genetic syndromatic congenital abnormalities. Further studies are needed to differentiate the chance effect and vitamin dependent effect.
Folic acid intake during pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) and perhaps also oral facial clefts. Maternal autoantibodies to folate receptors can impair folic acid binding. We explored the relationship of these birth defects to inhibition of folic acid binding to folate receptor α (FRα), as well as possible effects of parental demographics or prenatal exposures.
We conducted a nested case–control study within the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The study included mothers of children with an NTD (n= 11), cleft lip with or without cleft palate (CL/P, n= 72), or cleft palate only (CPO, n= 27), and randomly selected mothers of controls (n= 221). The inhibition of folic acid binding to FRα was measured in maternal plasma collected around 17 weeks of gestation. On the basis of prior literature, the maternal age, gravidity, education, smoking, periconception folic acid supplement use and milk consumption were considered as potential confounding factors.
There was an increased risk of NTDs with increased binding inhibition [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0–1.8]. There was no increased risk of oral facial clefts from inhibited folic acid binding to FRα (CL/P aOR = 0.7, 95% CI 0.6–1.0; CPO aOR = 1.1, 95% CI 0.8–1.4). No association was seen between smoking, folate supplementation or other cofactors and inhibition of folic acid binding to FRα.
Inhibition of folic acid binding to FRα in maternal plasma collected during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of NTDs but not oral facial clefts.
neural tube defects; oral facial clefts; folic acid; folate receptor; maternal autoantibodies
BACKGROUND: Suboptimal maternal folate status is considered a risk factor for neural tube defects (NTDs). However, the relationship between dietary folate status and risk of NTDs appears complex, as experimentally induced folate deficiency is insufficient to cause NTDs in nonmutant mice. In contrast, folate deficiency can exacerbate the effect of an NTD-causing mutation, as in splotch mice. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether folate deficiency can induce NTDs in mice with a permissive genetic background which do not normally exhibit defects. METHODS: Folate deficiency was induced in curly tail and genetically matched wild-type mice, and we analyzed the effect on maternal folate status, embryonic growth and development, and frequency of NTDs. RESULTS: Folate-deficient diets resulted in reduced maternal blood folate, elevated homocysteine, and a diminished embryonic folate content. Folate deficiency had a deleterious effect on reproductive success, resulting in smaller litter sizes and an increased rate of resorption. Notably, folate deficiency caused a similar-sized, statistically significant increase in the frequency of cranial NTDs among both curly tail (Grhl3 mutant) embryos and background-matched embryos that are wild type for Grhl3. The latter do not exhibit NTDs under normal dietary conditions. Maternal supplementation with myo-inositol reduced the incidence of NTDs in the folate-deficient wild-type strain. CONCLUSIONS: Dietary folate deficiency can induce cranial NTDs in nonmutant mice with a permissive genetic background, a situation that likely parallels gene-nutrient interactions in human NTDs. Our findings suggest that inositol supplementation may ameliorate NTDs resulting from insufficient dietary folate. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
neural tube defects; folic acid; inositol; exencephaly; curly tail; diet
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common, serious malformations with a complex etiology that suggests involvement of both genetic and environmental factors. The authors evaluated maternal or offspring folate-related gene variants and interactions between the gene variants and maternal intake of folates on the risk of NTDs in their offspring. A case-control study was conducted on mothers and/or their fetuses and infants who were born in California from 1999–2003 with an NTD (cases n = 222, including 24 mother-infant pairs) or without a major malformation (controls n = 454, including 186 mother-infant pairs). Maternal intake of folates was assessed by food frequency questionnaire and genotyping was performed on samples from mothers and infants. For mothers in the lowest folate-intake group, risk of NTDs in offspring was significantly decreased for maternal MTHFR SNPs rs1476413, rs1801131 and rs1801133 (odds ratio (OR) = 0.55, 80% confidence interval (CI): 0.20, 1.48; OR = 0.58, 80% CI: 0.24, 1.43; OR = 0.69, 80% CI: 0.41, 1.17, respectively), and TYMS SNPs rs502396 and rs699517 (OR= 0.91, 80% CI: 0.53, 1.56; OR = 0.70, 80% CI: 0.38, 1.29). A gene-only effect was observed for maternal SHMT1 SNP rs669340 (OR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.49, 0.96). When there was low maternal folate intake, risk of NTDs was significantly increased for infant MTHFD1 SNPs rs2236224, rs2236225 and rs11627387 (OR = 1.58, 80% CI: 0.99, 2.51; OR = 1.53, 80% CI: 0.95, 2.47; OR = 4.25, 80% CI: 2.33, 7.75, respectively) and SHMT1 SNP rs12939757 (OR = 2.01, 80% CI: 1.20, 3.37), but decreased for TYMS SNP rs2847153 (OR = 0.73, 80% CI: 0.37, 1.45). Although power to detect interaction effects was low for this birth defects association study, the gene-folate interactions observed in this study represent preliminary findings that will be useful for informing future studies on the complex etiology of NTDs.
Congenital Abnormalities; Folic Acid; Genetic Association Studies; Molecular Epidemiology; Neural Tube Defects; Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena; Nervous System Malformations; Nutrigenomics
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are the second most common birth defects (1 in 1000 live births) in the world. Periconceptional maternal folate supplementation reduces NTD risk by 50–70%; however, studies of folate related and other developmental genes in humans have failed to definitively identify a major causal gene for NTD. The aetiology of NTDs remains unknown and both genetic and environmental factors are implicated. We present findings from a microsatellite based screen of 44 multiplex pedigrees ascertained through the NTD Collaborative Group. For the linkage analysis, we defined our phenotype narrowly by considering individuals with a lumbosacral level myelomeningocele as affected, then we expanded the phenotype to include all types of NTDs. Two point parametric analyses were performed using VITESSE and HOMOG. Multipoint parametric and nonparametric analyses were performed using ALLEGRO. Initial results identified chromosomes 7 and 10, both with maximum parametric multipoint lod scores (Mlod) >2.0. Chromosome 7 produced the highest score in the 24 cM interval between D7S3056 and D7S3051 (parametric Mlod 2.45; nonparametric Mlod 1.89). Further investigation demonstrated that results on chromosome 7 were being primarily driven by a single large pedigree (parametric Mlod 2.40). When this family was removed from analysis, chromosome 10 was the most interesting region, with a peak Mlod of 2.25 at D10S1731. Based on mouse human synteny, two candidate genes (Meox2, Twist1) were identified on chromosome 7. A review of public databases revealed three biologically plausible candidates (FGFR2, GFRA1, Pax2) on chromosome 10. The results from this screen provide valuable positional data for prioritisation of candidate gene assessment in future studies of NTDs.
Folate is a generic term for a water-soluble B-complex vitamin which plays an important role in protein synthesis and metabolism and other processes related to cell multiplication and tissue growth. Pregnant and lactating women are at increased risk of folic acid deficiency because generally their dietary folate is insufficient to meet their physiological requirements and the metabolic demands of the growing fetus. The evidence pertaining to the reduction of the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) due to folate is so compelling that supplementation with 400 μg of folic acid to all women trying to conceive until 12 weeks of pregnancy has been recommended by every relevant authority. A recent Cochrane review has also found protective effects of folate supplementation in occurrence and reoccurrence of NTDs. Despite food fortification and targeted public health campaigns promoting folic acid supplementation, 4,300,000 new cases occur each year worldwide resulting in an estimated 41,000 deaths and 2.3 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYS). This article will review the burden and risk factors of NTDS, and the role of folate in preventing NTDs. It will also describe different modes of supplementing folate and the newer evidence of the effectiveness of adding folate in oral contraceptives for raising serum and red blood cell folate levels.
folate; folate-containing oral contraceptives; oral contraceptives; contraceptives
OBJECTIVE: To prevent the recurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs) in families at increased risk of having offspring with NTDs with the use of periconceptional folic acid supplementation. OPTIONS: Genetic counselling and prenatal diagnosis of NTDs. OUTCOMES: NTDs cause stillbirth, neonatal death and severe disabilities. The cost for medical care and rehabilitation in the first 10 years of life of a child with spina bifida cystica was estimated to be $42,507 in 1987. EVIDENCE: The authors reviewed the medical literature, communicated with investigators from key studies, reviewed policy recommendations from other organizations and drew on their own expertise. A recent multicentre randomized controlled trial showed that among women at high risk of having a child with an NTD those who received 4 mg/d of folic acid had 72% fewer cases of NTD-affected offspring than nonsupplemented women. Two previous intervention studies also demonstrated that folic acid supplementation was effective in reducing the rate of NTD recurrence. Several retrospective studies support this conclusion. VALUES: Recommendations are the consensus of the Clinical Teratology Committee of the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists (CCMG) and have been approved by the CCMG Board. The committee believes that primary prevention of NTDs is preferable to treatment or to prenatal detection and abortion. BENEFITS, HARMS AND COSTS: Folic acid supplementation should result in fewer NTDs among infants in Canada and ancillary savings in medical costs. The recommended dosage of folic acid is not known to be associated with adverse effects. Higher dosages of folic acid may make vitamin B12 deficiency difficult to diagnose and may alter seizure frequency in patients with epilepsy due to drug interactions with anticonvulsants. RECOMMENDATIONS: A minimum dosage of folic acid of 0.8 mg/d, not to exceed 5.0 mg/d, is recommended along with a well-balanced, nutritious diet for all women who are at increased risk of having offspring with NTDs and who are planning a pregnancy or may become pregnant. Supplementation should begin before conception and continue for at least 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. VALIDATION: These guidelines are similar to those of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health in Britain. SPONSORS: These guidelines were developed by the CCMG Clinical Teratology Committee and endorsed by the Board of the CCMG. No funding for the development of these guidelines was obtained from any other sources.
Folate has received international attention regarding its role in the risk-reduction of birth defects, specifically neural tube defects (NTDs). In 1998, health officials in Canada, like the United States, mandated the addition of folic acid to white flour and select grain products to increase the folate intake of reproductive-aged women. Subsequent to this initiative there has been an increase in blood folate concentrations in Canada and a 50% reduction in NTDs. Many countries, including Korea, have not mandated folic acid fortification of their food supply. Reasons vary but often include concern over the masking of vitamin B12 deficiency, a belief that folate intakes among womenare adequate, low priority relative to other domestic issues, and the philosophy that individuals have the right not to consume supplemental folic acid if they so choose. Prior to folic acid fortification of the food supply in Canada, the folate intakes of women were low, and their blood folate concentrations while not sufficiently low to produce overt signs of folate deficiency (eg. anemia) were inconsistent with a level known to reduce the risk of an NTD-affected pregnancy. The purpose of this article is to describe the role of folate during the periconceptional period, pregnancy, and during lactation. The rationale for, and history of recommending folic acid-containing supplements during the periconceptional period and pregnancy is described as is folic acid fortification of the food supply. The impact of folic acid fortification in Canada is discussed, and unresolved issues associated with this policy described. While the incidence of NTDs in Canada pre-folic acid fortification were seemingly higherthan that of Korea today, blood folate levels of Korean women are strikingly similar. We will briefly explore these parallels in an attempt to understand whether folic acid fortification of the food supply in Korea might be worth consideration
Folic acid; fortification; periconceptional period; pregnancy; lactation
The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of folic acid use in pregnancy for the reduction of neural tube defects (NTDs) in the northwest region of Iran. We studied 243 women with pregnancies complicated by some forms of birth defect(s). These patients were identified by medical diagnostic tests as having a fetus with some types of congenital anomalies. The prevalence of NTDs among pregnant women who were referred for therapeutic termination of pregnancy was 24.7 percent. Consumption of folic acid prevented NTDs by 79 percent (Odds Ratio = 0.21, CI 95%: 0.12–0.40) and 94 percent (Odds Ratio = 0.06, CI 95%: 0.03–0.15) compared to pregnancies complicated by other anomalies and normal pregnancies, respectively. Hydrops fetalis, hydrocephaly, Down syndrome, and limb anomalies did not have any significant association with the folic acid use. Along with the advice for the consumption of folic acid for pregnant women, they should be offered prenatal screening or diagnostic tests to identify fetal abnormalities for possible termination of pregnancy.
Primary prevention of most folate-responsive neural tube defects (NTDs) may not require 400 μg folic acid/day but may be achieved by attaining a high maternal folate status. Using RBC folate ≥906 nmol/L as a marker for NTD risk reduction, the study aimed to determine the change in blood folate concentrations in reproductive age women in response to long-term folic acid supplementation at 400 µg/day and 140 µg/day (dose designed to mimic the average daily folic acid intake received from New Zealand’s proposed mandatory bread fortification program). Participants were randomly assigned to a daily folic acid supplement of 140 µg (n = 49), 400 µg (n = 48) or placebo (n = 47) for 40 weeks. RBC folate concentrations were measured at baseline, and after 6, 12, 29 and 40 weeks. At 40 weeks, the overall prevalence of having a RBC folate <906 nmol/L decreased to 18% and 35% in the 400 µg and 140 µg groups, respectively, while remaining relatively unchanged at 58% in the placebo group. After 40 weeks, there was no evidence of a difference in RBC folate between the two treatment groups (P = 0.340), nor was there evidence of a difference in the odds of a RBC folate <906 nmol/L (P = 0.078). In conclusion, the average daily intake of folic acid received from the proposed fortification program would increase RBC folate concentrations in reproductive age women to levels associated with a low risk of NTDs.
neural tube defects; blood folate status; folic acid fortification; supplementation
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common, severe congenital malformations whose causation involves multiple genes and environmental factors. Although more than 200 genes are known to cause NTDs in mice, there has been rather limited progress in delineating the molecular basis underlying most human NTDs. Numerous genetic studies have been carried out to investigate candidate genes in cohorts of patients, with particular reference to those that participate in folate one-carbon metabolism. Although the homocysteine remethylation gene MTHFR has emerged as a risk factor in some human populations, few other consistent findings have resulted from this approach. Similarly, attention focused on the human homologues of mouse NTD genes has contributed only limited positive findings to date, although an emerging association between genes of the non-canonical Wnt (planar cell polarity) pathway and NTDs provides candidates for future studies. Priorities for the next phase of this research include: (i) larger studies that are sufficiently powered to detect significant associations with relatively minor risk factors; (ii) analysis of multiple candidate genes in groups of well-genotyped individuals to detect possible gene–gene interactions; (iii) use of high throughput genomic technology to evaluate the role of copy number variants and to detect ‘private’ and regulatory mutations, neither of which have been studied to date; (iv) detailed analysis of patient samples stratified by phenotype to enable, for example, hypothesis-driven testing of candidates genes in groups of NTDs with specific defects of folate metabolism, or in groups of fetuses with well-defined phenotypes such as craniorachischisis.